By Deb Silverthorn
Fred Rogers, who sang “won’t you be my neighbor,” would likely love the story of the San Gabriel Bunch — the senior generation of five of the families who, from the early 1960s, lived on San Gabriel Drive in North Dallas. Now, they are reunited as neighbors at The Legacy Midtown Park.
It was Sylvia and Dr. Bill Epstein, Sally and Dr. Ed Genecov, Gay and Larry Golman, Rena and Bud Silverberg and Barbara and Sy Thum that built or bought already finished homes on San Gabriel block near Crooked and Strait Lanes in the 75229 ZIP code.
Over the last year or so, Sylvia Epstein, Sally Genecov, Larry Golman, Bud and Rena Silverberg and Sy Thum have moved to The Legacy Midtown Park. Drs. Bill Epstein and Ed Genecov, Gay Golman and Barbara Thum, all of blessed memory, live on in the stories their spouses and friends share.
Many had grown up as childhood friends in Dallas or San Antonio. Some met as students at H. Sophie Newcomb College (then the women’s college of Tulane University) in New Orleans and others at the University of Texas. Two couples lived in Corsicana for a period of time and a number of the men, just discharged from the service, came to Dallas with their brides, who then went on to finish college at SMU.
“The connections we had more than 50 years ago and the connections we’ve made again – really, we never lost contact — are unbelievable,” said Larry Golman, who with his wife was the first to move onto the block he called home for 58 years from 1963 until his move to LMP in April 2021.
The Golmans’ three children and their spouses — Mark (Dana), Helaine (Ken Wolf) and David (Mandy) — have 10 children between them.
“I’m glad to be so close to our friends as well as the new friends I’ve made. There are some, not many but a few people I’ve met who maybe I didn’t know before, but our kids or grandkids are connected, and Jewish geography is real,” said Golman, who served on The Legacy Senior Communities board for 12 years and was involved in finding the location for The Legacy Willow Bend.
Next to move to “the block” were the Epsteins whose family grew to include sons Leonard (Tina), Barry (Dia), Jeff (Stephanie), Todd – of blessed memory – Kevin (Lisa), 12 grandchildren and one, soon-to-be two, great-grandchildren. The couple lived on San Gabriel for 30 years.
“I’m loving living at The Legacy and it’s good to be back close to old friends. There is so much history between us, so many good memories,” said Sylvia Epstein, who moved to LMP in July 2021. “It was wonderful watching our children grow up and, as adults, have their own relationships grow. Now it’s our grandchildren who grew up together, who go to college together or who are working together. L’dor v’dor.
“It’s not at all uncommon to find each other’s children and grandchildren walking the halls of The Legacy or at brunch. It’s really a beautiful thing,” she added.
Following were the Silverbergs, then the Thums and the Genecovs.
“San Gabriel became home real quick and we were grateful to put down some roots,” said Rena Silverberg. Between the military, graduate school and work, by the time the Silverbergs moved to San Gabriel they’d moved 12 times in 11 years.
“We spent a lot of time together, many of us on one committee or another at the J or the Federation. We were always busy caring about something. Being at The Legacy is like that all over again, but now we are the ones who are so well taken care of,” she added, the couple settled at LMP in July 2021 after 55 years on San Gabriel.
The couple laughs at a memory of, shortly after the San Gabriel Bunch had all moved into The Legacy, a dinner table was reserved for just them. It was just a one-night reunion, where others weren’t invited to the table, but it had been a long time coming. They still enjoy meals together, but their “neighborhood” has expanded.
“We enjoy being here, we enjoy our friends from long ago and the ones we are meeting now,” said Bud Silverberg.
The Silverbergs are the parents of Kaylen (Carol), Andra and Stefani, of blessed memory (Gary Eisenstat). They are the grandparents of eight and great-grandparents of three. The next generation, for the moment, is keeping the block warm as the Silverbergs’ granddaughter Laken Litman Prosperi and her husband are currently living in Bud and Rena’s home.
“No one had less than three kids and they were all about the same ages which ranged about a decade, maybe more, and they were mostly in school and Hebrew school so there was lots of carpooling together and such,” said Sy Thum. He and his wife were the hosts of the San Gabriel Bunch’s annual Fourth of July party. “It was nice to have so many Jewish families close.”
The Thums’ four children — Brian (Barbara), Andrea (Jonathan Cohn), Sharon (Michael Bowers) and Michael (Sherry) — have their own families now with eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
“Here the ceilings are high, the windows sound-proof and it’s just exceptional. I can’t find anything wrong with the place,” said Sy, who moved into The Legacy in April 2021.
He added, “The Jewish community should feel proud of itself and thankful to Carol Aaron and the many who made this happen. It’s all first class.”
There were b’nai mitzvahs, birthdays and engagements for all 17 offspring of the next generation. Progressive dinner parties started at one home for cocktails and toasts, making their way through the five homes for dinner, dessert and gifts.
Sally Genecov, the mother of Jeff (Lisa), Julie (Rob Shrell) and David (Lisa) and the grandmother of nine and great-grandmother of one smiles brightly at the memory of the parties the bunch held throughout the years.
The neighbors hosted dozens of parties beginning with one to celebrate the b’nai mitzvah of David Genecov and Helaine Golman, the two sharing the weekend at Congregation Shearith Israel where all the families happened to belong.
“It was fun and we were all together. We all cooked and baked and we were like family,” said Sally Genecov.
One “carpooling” occasion was likely a once-in-a-lifetime event.
“How many patients pick up their doctors and drive them to the hospital? That just doesn’t happen,” said David Genecov, who remembers a frozen wintry morning, when he was 18-years-old. His parents were taking him for a knee surgery at Baylor. Dr. Bill Epstein, who lived just houses away and was to be David’s anesthesiologist, couldn’t get out of his driveway. “His driveway was frozen and he wasn’t going anywhere so he got into our car. The knees are still good,” David Genecov quipped.
“Everyone had someone. All the kids were stacked in age, but there were always a few of every age. Our families were so alike, and yet different in many ways,” said David Genecov speaking on behalf of the next generation. In 2007, the second generation threw a reunion party at the JCC for 90 San Gabriel Bunch members and the next generations. “We didn’t always see eye to eye, but it always worked out and it was so good. It really was like family,” he said.